The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

eyesdriftskyward:

Japan and South Korea suspended some imports of American wheat, and the European Union urged its 27 nations to increase testing, after the United States government disclosed this week that a strain of genetically engineered wheat that was never approved for sale was found growing in an Oregon field.

Although none of the wheat, developed by Monsanto Company, was found in any grain shipments — and the Department of Agriculture said there would be no health risk if any was shipped — governments in Asia and Europe acted quickly to limit their risk.

South Korea, which last year purchased roughly half of its total wheat imports of five million tons from the United States, said Friday it would suspend purchases until tests were performed on arriving shipments. Results of the tests, by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, were expected in the first week of June, according to local media.

Seoul also raised quarantine measures on wheat for livestock feed, while Thailand put ports on alert.

The European Union, which has a “zero tolerance” approach to genetically modified crops, said through its consumer protection office Friday that if any shipments tested positive, they would not be sold.

It also said it was seeking “further information and reassurance” from Washington and had asked Monsanto for help in developing a reliable test for the genetically modified strain.

The New York Times, “Japan and South Korea Bar Imports of U.S. Wheat” (via inothernews)

One-Third of U.S. Honeybee Colonies Died Last Winter, Threatening Food Supply | Wired Science

Nearly one in three commercial honeybee colonies in the United States died or disappeared last winter, an unsustainable decline that threatens the nation’s food supply.

Multiple factors — pesticides, fungicides, parasites, viruses and malnutrition — are believed to cause the losses, which were officially announced today by a consortium of academic researchers, beekeepers and Department of Agriculture scientists.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the point where we don’t have enough bees in this country to meet pollination demands,” said entomologist Dennis vanEngelstorp of the University of Maryland, who led the survey documenting the declines.

Beekeepers lost 31 percent of their colonies in late 2012 and early 2013, roughly double what’s considered acceptable attrition through natural causes. The losses are in keeping with rates documented since 2006, when beekeeper concerns prompted the first nationwide survey of honeybee health. Hopes raised by drop in rates of loss to 22 percent in 2011-2012 were wiped out by the new numbers. [more]

HR933 "Monsanto Protection Act" | Not the Singularity

HR 933 was signed into law on Tuesday, called the ”Monsanto Protection Act”. This bill was suppose to be a simple spending bill but section 735 of the bill made it impossible for you or me to sue Monsanto if we get sick from their genetically modified crops. I want to scream at the Republicans for sending Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, to craft the provision with the help of Monsanto itself. I want to kick the ass of the Democrats like Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski who turned her “back on consumers” according to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety,

“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto. This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

250k+ people signed a petition opposing the provision and Food Democracy Now protesters even took to the streets on Pennsylvania avenue but this did nothing to disuade President Barack Obama from signing HR 933 into law.

Salt Sugar Fat: NY Times Reporter Michael Moss on How the Food Giants Hooked America on Junk Food | Democracy Now!

Food companies have known for decades that salt, sugar and fat are not good for us in the quantities Americans consume them. But every year, people are swayed to ingest about twice the recommended amount of salt and fat — and an estimated 70 pounds of sugar. We speak with New York Times reporter Michael Moss about how in his new book, “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.” In a multi-year investigation, Moss explores deep inside the laboratories where food scientists calculate the “bliss point” of sugary drinks or the “mouth feel” of fat, and use advanced technology to make it irresistible and addictive. As a result of this $1 trillion-a-year industry, one-in-three adults, and one-in-five children, are now clinically obese.

And don’t miss the follow-up: Pandora’s Lunchbox: Pulling Back the Curtain on How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

One Nation, Under Monsanto | Paul Craig Roberts

In the United States everything is polluted.

Democracy is polluted with special interests and corrupt politicians.

Accountability is polluted with executive branch exemptions from law and the Constitution and with special legal privileges for corporations, such as the Supreme Court given right to corporations to purchase American elections.

The Constitution is polluted with corrupt legal interpretations from the Bush and Obama regimes that have turned constitutional prohibitions into executive branch rights, transforming law from a shield of the people into a weapon in the hands of government.

Waters are polluted with toxic waste spills, oil spills, chemical fertilizer run-off with resulting red tides and dead zones, acid discharges from mining with resulting destructive algae such as prymnesium parvum, from toxic chemicals used in fracking and with methane that fracking releases into wells and aquifers, resulting in warnings to homeowners near to fracking operations to open their windows when showering.

The soil’s fertility is damaged, and crops require large quantities of chemical fertilizers. The soil is polluted with an endless array of toxic substances and now with glyphosate, the main element in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide with which GMO crops are sprayed.

Glyphosate now shows up in wells, streams and in rain.

Air is polluted with a variety of substances, and there are many large cities in which there are days when the young, the elderly, and those suffering with asthma are warned to remain indoors.

All of these costs are costs imposed on society and ordinary people by corporations that banked profits by not having to take the costs into account. This is the way in which unregulated capitalism works. [continue]

thepeoplesrecord:

Peru’s Congress approves 10-year GMO ban
November 13, 2012

Peru’s Congress announced Friday it overwhelmingly approved a 10-year moratorium on imports of genetically modified organisms in order to safeguard the country’s biodiversity.

The measure bars GMOs — including seeds, livestock, and fish — from being imported for cultivation or to be raised locally.

Exceptions include the use of GMO products for research purposes in a closed environment, but those will be closely monitored, the legislature’s official news service said.

The bill, approved late Thursday, now goes to President Ollanta Humala to be signed into law. Humala, who has been in power since late July, has repeatedly said he opposes GM programs.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, Peru is one of the world’s leading exporters of organic food, including coffee and cocoa, with $3 billion a year in revenues and 40,000 certified producers.

Congress approved a similar 10-year moratorium in June, but outgoing president Alan Garcia, who was seen as being favorable to GM, did not ratify the ban.

There was friction over GM in the previous government’s ministries of agriculture and environment.

The head of Peru’s Consumer Agency, Jaime Delgado, said the moratorium is long enough to learn from scientific studies that will emerge on the effects of GMO products.

The country’s leading group representing farmers and ranchers, the National Agrarian Convention, said that by this measure Peru “defends its biodiversity, its agriculture, its gastronomy and its health.”

Source

Meanwhile in the US, GMO labeling alone has not even been enacted at the national, state or local levels.

New report: Monsanto pesticides do more damage than good, costing tax payers billions

climateadaptation:

Solid reporting on this one.

Superweeds, Superpests: The Legacy of Pesticides

“The rapid adoption of a single weed-killer for the vast majority of crops harvested in the United States has given rise to superweeds and greater pesticide use, a new study suggests. And while crops engineered to manufacture an insect-killing toxin have reduced the use of pesticides in those fields, the emergence of newly resistant insects now threatens to reverse that trend.

Farmers spray the herbicide glyphosate, widely sold under the Monsanto brand Roundup, on fields planted with seeds that are genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical. Found in 1.37 billion acres of corn, soybeans, and cotton planted from 1996 through 2011, this “Roundup Ready” gene was supposed to reduce or eliminate the need to till fields or apply harsher chemicals, making weed control simple, flexible, cheap, and less environmentally taxing.

In fact, this system has led farmers to use a greater number of herbicides in higher volumes, according to the study, published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe.”

NYTimes

(via randomactsofchaos)

A new study claims U.S. residents are wasting nearly every other bite of food they consume. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans are wasting up to 40 percent of the nation’s food supply to the tune of $165 billion per year. Wasted food is said to account for up to a quarter of all freshwater consumed and 23 percent of emissions of methane gas. Study: U.S. Wasting Up to 40% of Its Food

Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, and Cargill donate nearly $25 million to defeat California GMO labeling initiative

sinidentidades:

The nation’s largest agribusiness and biotech companies are pouring millions of dollars into California to stop the first-ever initiative to require special labels on foods made with genetically modified ingredients, a sign of their determination to keep the measure from sparking a nationwide movement.

So far, farming giants such as Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, and Cargill have contributed nearly $25 million to defeat the proposal, with much of that cash coming in the past few days. It’s nearly 10 times the amount raised by backers of the ballot measure who say California’s health-conscious shoppers want more information about the food they eat.

With nearly three months to go before the November election, the measure’s opponents appear to be following the previous blueprint developed by major industries to defeat ballot initiatives in the nation’s largest consumer market: Raise large sums of money to swamp the airwaves with negative advertising.

The tactic previously worked for the pharmaceutical industry. And in California’s June primary, the tobacco industry helped defeat an initiative supported by cycling legend Lance Armstrong that would have raised cigarette taxes to fund cancer research.

The food initiative, known as Proposition 37, is one of 11 statewide measures to go before California voters in November. It would require most processed foods to bear a label by 2014 letting shoppers know if the items contain ingredients derived from plants with DNA altered with genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria.

(via questionall)

Must the Poor Go Hungry Just So the Rich Can Drive? | George Monbiot

Biofuels are the means by which governments in the rich world avoid hard choices. Rather than raise fuel economy standards as far as technology allows, rather than promoting a shift from driving to public transport, walking and cycling, rather than insisting on better town planning to reduce the need to travel, they have chosen to exchange our wild overconsumption of petroleum for the wild overconsumption of fuel made from crops. No one has to drive less or make a better car: everything remains the same except the source of fuel. The result is a competition between the world’s richest and poorest consumers, a contest between overconsumption and survival.

There was never any doubt about which side would win.

USDA Buys $170 Million Of Meat To Help Drought-Stricken Farmers

climateadaptation:

Federal law allows the Agriculture Department to buy meat and poultry products to help farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters.

The announcement came as Obama criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for blocking a farm bill that could help farmers cope with the drought. Obama touted his efforts to help farmers as he began a three-day tour of the battleground state he won in 2008.

“That will help ranchers who are going through tough times right now,” Obama said.

Obama said the government would boost its purchases of meat now, while prices are low, and freeze much of it for later use.

The USDA plans to buy up to $100 million of additional pork products, $50 million of chicken, $10 million of lamb and $10 million of catfish. The Defense Department, a large purchaser of beef, pork and lamb, was expected to look for ways to encourage its vendors to speed up purchases of meat.

“The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA nutrition programs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

The USDA has spent about $37 million on pork products so far this year. If it spends an additional $100 million, that would be more than twice what the agency spent on pork in 2011.

Obama has pledged a wide-ranging response to the drought. His administration is giving farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans, opening more federal land for grazing and distributing $30 million to get water to livestock.

Good reporting on government handouts to private businesses via CBS.

The Hunger Wars in Our Future | Michael Klare

… It is in the international arena, however, that the Great Drought [of 2012] is likely to have its most devastating effects. Because so many nations depend on grain imports from the U.S. to supplement their own harvests, and because intense drought and floods are damaging crops elsewhere as well, food supplies are expected to shrink and prices to rise across the planet. “What happens to the U.S. supply has immense impact around the world,” says Robert Thompson, a food expert at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. As the crops most affected by the drought, corn and soybeans, disappear from world markets, he noted, the price of all grains, including wheat, is likely to soar, causing immense hardship to those who already have trouble affording enough food to feed their families.

What happens next is, of course, impossible to predict, but if the recent past is any guide, it could turn ugly. In 2007-2008, when rice, corn, and wheat experienced prices hikes of 100% or more, sharply higher prices — especially for bread — sparked “food riots” in more than two dozen countries, including Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Senegal, and Yemen. In Haiti, the rioting became so violent and public confidence in the government’s ability to address the problem dropped so precipitously that the Haitian Senate voted to oust the country’s prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis. In other countries, angry protestors clashed with army and police forces, leaving scores dead.

Those price increases of 2007-2008 were largely attributed to the soaring cost of oil, which made food production more expensive. (Oil’s use is widespread in farming operations, irrigation, food delivery, and pesticide manufacture.) At the same time, increasing amounts of cropland worldwide were being diverted from food crops to the cultivation of plants used in making biofuels.

The next price spike in 2010-11 was, however, closely associated with climate change. An intense drought gripped much of eastern Russia during the summer of 2010, reducing the wheat harvest in that breadbasket region by one-fifth and prompting Moscow to ban all wheat exports. Drought also hurt China’s grain harvest, while intense flooding destroyed much of Australia’s wheat crop. Together with other extreme-weather-related effects, these disasters sent wheat prices soaring by more than 50% and the price of most food staples by 32%.

Once again, a surge in food prices resulted in widespread social unrest, this time concentrated in North Africa and the Middle East. The earliest protests arose over the cost of staples in Algeria and then Tunisia, where — no coincidence — the precipitating event was a young food vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, setting himself on fire to protest government harassment. Anger over rising food and fuel prices combined with long-simmering resentments about government repression and corruption sparked what became known as the Arab Spring. The rising cost of basic staples, especially a loaf of bread, was also a cause of unrest in Egypt, Jordan, and Sudan. Other factors, notably anger at entrenched autocratic regimes, may have proved more powerful in those places, but as the author of Tropic of Chaos, Christian Parenti, wrote, “The initial trouble was traceable, at least in part, to the price of that loaf of bread.” [from TomDispatch]

Daily Kos: Gulf Coast Waters Closed to Shrimping

tartantambourine:

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. All waters in the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay, and some areas of Bon Secour, Wolf Bay and Little Lagoon were closed to shrimpers. Reports of grossly deformed seafood all along the Gulf from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle have been logged with increasing urgency, but Alabama is the first state to actually close waters to the seafood industry.

Some Alabama officials are hedging on the real reason for closing shrimping but this report is largely substantiated by multiple sources.

(via sarahlee310)